Urgent need to improve transportation system

Do you know that notification sound of an incoming text on a cell phone? That’s what happens in my head whenever I read about transportation plans or anything to do with public transport.  In this instance, I was excited to read that Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC), that tenders will soon go out for the development of a transportation plan for Trinidad and Tobago.  My excitement increased because I remembered that one of the selling points in the lead-up to the 2015 general elections was that transportation was a way of life issue and we were encouraged to dream of the 4+ hours we could save every day when an efficient transportation system was put in place if the PNM was elected to lead the government.

My excitement withered when I remembered a public statement by former Minister of Works Jack Warner who boasted that he used the box containing the rapid rail report as a footstool.  During a discussion in Parliament in 2010, then Minister Warner reminded the population that a former PNM administration had spent $27 million on the Comprehensive National Transportation Study (CNTS) and Mass Transit System Study.  All we have is a memory of the disappearance of $27 million.

My excitement transformed to cynicism because we are ignoring the recent work of Dr. Trevor Townsend and Katherine Agong, research assistant and Ph.D. student who carried out a scientific survey of households and developed a suite of travel demand models that can tell us about the daily travel behaviour of commuters.  

My cynicism became mistrust when I recalled the political model for awarding contracts.  This is my understanding of that political model: begin with selecting the intended awardee, craft the need to suit their stated competence, develop the invitation to tender, issue the tender, award the tender to the firm, wait for the variation or scope creep, and waste taxpayers’ money.

Of course, this political model for awarding contracts is never implemented because our politicians always act in the best interest of our country and the most transparent process will be utilized to procure these services. For those not paying attention, that sentence is sarcasm.

Minister Sinanan, there will be a long timeline between the award of the tender, the submission of the report, and the implementation of the recommendations.  Is it your expectation that the population will continue to silently suffer the daily grind of an unreliable transportation system?  We need some quick solutions to alleviate our transportation pain.

From my “ringside” seat you had a big spat with Transportation specialist Dr. Rae Furlonge so you are unlikely to engage him for professional advice.  PTSC may have some history with Dr. Trevor Townsend so we could run a redline through him as a subject matter expert.   So, your next best bet would be to engage Katherine Agong, a Ph.D. student who appears to be our most recent transportation advocate.  She is quoted in the Express Newspaper of August 02, 2022, as saying that the study found that a major need for improved transportation, was “more reliable and convenient public transportation systems to replace the use of the private car.”

I sincerely hope that some action will be taken quickly to improve our transportation system.

Guilty in Fact but not in Law …

“Guilty in fact and in law, and getting away with it!  For me, it took several days for this statement to sink in.  The Al Rawi/Nelson cockup is another confirming example for the person in the street that he/she can get away with breaking the law because our leaders are continuously sidestepping our laws.

If it is a fact that the Attorney General promised a “Presidential” pardon, then clearly our politicians believe that their backroom dealings, whether legal or not, will prevail.  I wonder what other wonky deals have been made that did not come to light.

We have witnessed so many examples of political interference in our rules and regulations that the popular view is that if you have access to the inner circle, you can get away with murder. 

The collapse of the Ramdeen/Ramlogan case is a big blow to the current administration because this was supposed to be the trailblazer in their quest to prove opposition corruption and misbehaviour in public office.  Now they must re-examine and try to avoid the allegation being turned back and exploding in their faces especially since the alleged “Presidential” pardon might also be regarded as misbehaviour in public office.

Is it that even at the level of the Attorney General, there is little faith in the justice system?  Or is it that the AG believes that the only way to get his desired outcome is by interfering with the justice system? 

Our state of injustice was captured in a recent statement by a relative of the deceased “road rage victim” who said: “We are unsure if justice is even possible. You would read this on the news, then hear nothing again. We do not expect justice.

This Al Rawi/Nelson cockup is bigger than the PNM.  It is akin to treating the black spot on your skin and not investigating for cancer. This is about how we as citizens have allowed the cancer of corruption to take root in our society.  It is about a judicial system that has become dysfunctional.  

Where do we go from here?  

We are collectively responsible, either as passive bystanders or active participants.  It is no longer acceptable to say: “I don’t discuss politics.”  The time is now for citizens to step into the ring and change our leadership.  Otherwise, according to the words of Express Columnist RAFFIQUE SHAH, the whole system will go “stark-staring-mad.”


Photo courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Police website

More Municipal Police

“There will soon be 1,500 Municipal Police”, according to Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, Faris Al Rawi in a recent budget discussion.

Mr. Minister, nothing will change unless there is consistent enforcement of the law at ALL levels, including our politicians. Surprise sting operations are necessary, but this “vaps policing” will not work.  Another way of describing this “vaps policing” is  “sporadic policing”.  Sporadic policing is when police engage in a particular law enforcement exercise in an impulsive manner.  Recently, on some random day, the TTPS issued a flurry of parking tickets in St James.  The following day and subsequently, citizens continued to park incorrectly and make “U” turns randomly with little or no consequences.

What was the objective of that day? To issue their quota of tickets or to nudge citizens into obeying the laws?

We talk about how Trinis obey the laws abroad as if it is in our DNA to do so, but we obey them abroad because there are immediate, consistent consequences. People would be less inclined to “take a chance” if they felt that the odds of being caught were high.

Taking a Chance

This attitude of “taking a chance” has become prevalent. From the illegal construction of buildings to breaking traffic lights, people are just prepared to take a chance because they are confident that even if the matter went to court, the consequences would be minimal.  I am yet to know someone who has received a traffic ticket in the mail.

Sporadic policing is annoying, and wearisome, and causes citizens to feel singled out when confronted by a police officer especially if several others are committing the same offense and getting away.  Sporadic policing will not create the behaviour change we need.  What is required is the consistent implementation of the laws at all levels of our society.

Sporadic Polciing

Our country can pull itself back from the brink of social collapse if we commit to both implementing and obeying the laws.  The rules and laws were created to ensure that things run smoothly.  When there is an inconsistent application, it leads to chaos, mismanagement, and corruption.

The current sporadic policing is having far more negative than positive consequences.  Citizens need to know that if they break a red light they will be punished; if they park on the wrong side of the road, they will receive a ticket; if they litter there is a litter warden to administer the penalties.

Without the consistent implementation of the laws of the land, we shall continue to lean towards breaking all the laws with the confidence that punishment is unlikely.  This “Vaps Policing” is not working.